Islamic Center 'Ground Zero Mosque' Controversy Heats Up

Two prominent New York leaders, Gov. David Paterson and Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the city, have weighed in on the controversy over the construction of an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, suggesting that the center be moved to an alternative location in lower Manhattan.

Paterson said he would like to work with the developers to find a compromise site for the center, now called Park51.

VIDEO: President Obama Doesnt Regret Mosque Comments
President Obama Has No Regrets Over Mosque Comments, Right to Build on Grand Zero

"If people put their heads together, maybe we could find a site that's away from the site now but still serves the ... area," the governor told CNN's "Larry King Live" on Wednesday. "That would be a noble gesture to those who live in the area who suffered after the attack on this country, and at the same time would probably in many ways change a lot of people's minds about Islam, which is really a peaceful religion practiced by peace-loving people."

New York's archbishop echoed that sentiment, offering his prayers that a compromise can be reached. In an interview with WCBS radio, he questioned whether the center's proposed location is unnecessarily provocative.

"Those who wonder about the wisdom of the situation of the mosque, near such a wounded site, ask what I think are some legitimate questions that I think deserve attention," Dolan said.

The Islamic center, which has been in the works for over a year, has become a nationwide controversy as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches. Critics charge that having what they call a mosque so close what they consider hallowed ground is insensitive and an insult to the victims' families, especially since the attack was perpetrated in the name of Islam.

The contentious debate has followed the president, who told ABC News Wednesday that he has "no regrets" for commenting on the issue last week.

Obama said Friday that he believes Muslims have "the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan," but on Saturday said that he would not comment on the "wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there."

The public is overwhelmingly opposed to the construction of the mosque near ground zero.

Conservatives Launch Effort to Oppose Mosque

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D- Calif., echoed the president's support for freedom of religion and has called for an investigation into funding, not for the center, but for the conservative effort to oppose it.

"There is no question that there's a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some," Pelosi told San Francisco radio station KCBS. "I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded."

Some of that opposition is being ginned up by Keep America Safe, a group founded by Republicans William Kristol and Liz Cheney, which focuses primarily on national security issues. The group has posted an ad online called "We Remember" which features family members of 9/11 victims voicing their concerns about construction of the Muslim community center.

But not every Republican agrees. Ted Olson, the former solicitor general under President George W. Bush, whose first wife died on 9/11, said that he agrees with President Obama's message of tolerance.

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